An award-winning sustainable Swedish prison is changing lives for the better, inside and out.

Prisons are highly resource-intensive facilities. They are almost comparable to large hospitals in the sense that they operate 24/7, are densely-occupied and consume considerably more energy than the typical commercial or residential building. They also tend to consume more water per square metre than most typical building types. Prisons' need for resources combined with their security requirements makes them quite a challenge in terms of sustainability. 

Tabellen 4, a building in a high-security prison in Stockholm, has recently won the 2019 BREEAM Public Projects - In Use award. The building was recognised for its range of sustainable initiatives, including a 1,100sqm green roof, a ventilation system that recycles heat from the air, and a waste disposal room with eight types of waste storage. The building also features a façade with 6,000sqm of insulating glass for temperature regulation and a high-tech built-in alarm system. 

The green roof, which includes vegetation and turf, protects the roof from solar radition, rainfall and temperature changes. It also facilitates the run-off of surface water and allows insects to pollinate, supporting the dwindling bee population.

The building uses a mechanical ventilation system to heat and cool the building which recycles energy in the air. According to the building owner, this has reduced the energy used for heating by 50-60 percent.

Other sustainable building features include low-flush toilets, energy-efficient fridges and LED lighting.

In the kitchen, all food waste is converted into biogas, 12 percent of the food offered is organic and there are at least two vegetarian meals per week.

Underground, there is also a corridor that connects the prison, prosecutor’s office and court house, to encourage the safe transportation of prisoners without cars.

According to the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, the sustainability measures are an attempt to improve the wellbeing of people in prison, whether they be prisoners, relatives, employees or other visitors. This was based on research showing the high stress levels of people who interact with prisons, and the fact that people feel better in green spaces.

Tabellen 4 is not the only sustainable prison building – a number of other prisons such as Bostoy Prison in Norway and Coyote Ridge Corrections Centre in the US have gone down the sustainable route, and there are now a growing number of initiatives (as well as research) for sustainable prison design.

Image credit: BRE Group